For those days when you just want to shoot a puppy…
As many of you guys may know, I took about a month off of blogging in order to study for my AP Exams. Before that, I was bombarded with standardized testing, college and scholarship applications, acceptance and rejection letters, and the heavy burden of deciding my future university. And it doesn’t end there; finals are two weeks away, and before then I have to write four more essays, including one that I need to present during graduation. Needless to say, this past year or so has been the most stressful few months of my entire life.
There were times this past year where I just wanted to shrivel up and die. College apps nowadays are beyond ridiculous, and dealing with college rejections sucks… hard. There were moments when I felt helpless and alone, lost as to what my future holds for me. And like most of you guys who’ve felt this way before, I turned to my favorite pastime: video games.
Playing video games can be a surprisingly soothing experience. They take your mind off of real life, a necessary relief for people dealing with stressful times as I. Of course, not every game is built for relaxation; games like Super Meat Boy and Bit.Trip Runner can easily make things worse. But thankfully, there are games out there that don’t necessarily try to force you into masochistic self-hate.
Growing up, my comfort game had always been Mario Kart 64. Though not as technically impressive as most other Nintendo 64 games, its simplistic, mindless nature made it easy to “pick up and play” at any moment (aside from the fact that it was mindnumbingly fun, of course!). It seemed that every time I felt down, Mario Kart 64 was the game that would pick me back up. Strange, isn’t it, that a racing game like this would be my go-to game when I’m feeling depressed?
But what is it about Mario Kart that made it my personal rehab center in the middle of my living room? Why is it that video games in general are known to lower individual stress hormone levels?
The answer is simple, yet unexpected. All things considered, it boils down to the game’s feedback mechanism. In real life, we’re always worried about the way we are perceived and how other people look at us. When we see the problems in the world, we can’t help but feel helpless and that there’s nothing we can do to change how things are. Video games are quite different. Unlike real life, games reward you for your actions (at least most of them do). Getting first place in the Star Cup doesn’t just mean you’re good at Mario Kart, but it also means you’re better than those 7 other damned AI’s. You feel a sense of accomplishment, and most importantly you feel like you deserved that accomplishment.
More recently, I’ve found Rhythm Heaven Fever to be my comfort game of 2013. I actually picked it up early last year and loved it to bits (you can read my review here). While it may be maddeningly frustrating for the rhythmically inept, I’ve always been pretty good with music and whatnot so I’ve never had too much of a problem with it. Plus, the game’s quirky sense of humor never fails to bring a smile to my face. My favorite minigame within Rhythm Heaven is “Munchy Monk;” it just puts me in such a trance!
I guess every person’s comfort game will be different. Perhaps you like games like Tetris, which can distract you for hours without you even realizing it. Perhaps you like games like Call of Duty, which satisfy you with the adrenaline of competition. Or perhaps you’re one of those crazy people who play Super Meat Boy when you’re down, because what better way to make you feel better than finally defeating that boss after all those tries?
Oh who am I kidding? No one falls into that last category.
What’s your comfort game? Sound off in the comments below!